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A Short History of the Pump House Apartments, 2 Pump Street

 Old maps of Londonderry indicate that there has been a house on this site from the early 1600s when the Walled City was first laid out. Stewart’s map of 1738 shows that property which now corresponds to 17 & 19 Ferryquay Street and 2-4 Pump Street was leased by a Benjamin Davis.  In 1767, The Irish Society, who controlled the land on which the city was built, assigned this lease to Jane Davis, possibly Benjamin’s widow or daughter.  Attached to this property were just over half an acre of land outside the Walls and a further eight acres on the road leading to Fahan. In September 1816, the Irish Society renewed the lease in favour of Roger Murray and John McClintock Murray for a further period of lives. Eighty years later, in 1896 the Irish Society transferred ownership of the property to Alexander Grant of Ohio, Frederick W.S. Grant of London, James P. Grant of New Zealand,  and several others, most likely members of the same Derry family. Certain conditions were attached to this transfer. The Irish Society reserved the right to enter and inspect the premises twice yearly and to determine defects and specify repairs to be carried out.  All corn, grain and malt used on the premises was to be ground at the Irish Society’s mills. No thatched house or cabin could be built on that part of the property that was inside the Walls, nor could cattle be slaughtered, or soap made, or tallow rendered. Finally, there was to be no interference by the leaseholders with the salmon or eel fisheries in the nearby River Foyle.

It is not possible to date precisely the age of the present Grade B listed historic building, but evidence from street maps and the architectural style suggest somewhere between 1832 and 1873. Two massive thirty feet long wooden beams on the top floor have been cut by hand rather than by machine. This suggests an 18th century or earlier provenance and these beams may have come from an older building on the site.  During the first part of the 20th century, the original property holding was split into three separate parts, two of which are now shops in Ferryquay Street, the third being  No. 2 Pump Street. The latter may have functioned as a dwelling house until the 1930s when it began to be used for commercial purposes, serving, on occasion, as an adjunct to the adjoining shop on Ferryquay Street.  At various times a tailoring business was located there, a printing works, an art gallery and framing business, followed by the offices of a building society. The upper stories were not heavily used by the various owners and tenants in more recent years, and deteriorated over the course of time.  When we purchased No. 2 Pump Street in 2003, all of the ground floor (apart from the hallway), and part of the first floor had been structurally incorporated into the adjoining shop premises at 17 Ferryquay Street.

The building was then in very poor condition and presented a dilapidated, almost Dickensian appearance. Rooms full of cobwebs had not been used for twenty years or more and pigeons were the only denizens. Walls bulged and chimney breasts were scarred and weakened by structural cracks. The staircase hung precariously at an angle from its supports. Here and there floor boards were missing and it was possible to look into the room below or above. There was no kitchen, and one antiquated WC and wash basin provided the only toilet facilities in the entire house. In the major renovation project which followed, we endeavoured to retain as much as possible of the building’s original features and characteristics and, by using imagination and discernment, to blend these with the requirements of the 21st century, including a small lift. We hope that guests in the Pump House Apartments will enjoy the experience of living in a building of age, character and comfort, located in the historic centre of Ireland’s only fully walled city.

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